On the eve of the funeral, there was a knot in my stomach –
his death was so sudden
a Friday night phone call + he’s gone forever
I felt panic, a wave of grief that threatened to demolish me
my sister stepped into the summer night + screamed
a primal shout that began long years of healing.
(Photo by Richard Burlton on Unsplash)
When democracy died, I was reading Kafka –
gunshots blared + factions fought for ideals
they thought worth dying for –
TVs tuned to Washington +
the White House went dark,
troops marched + destroyed dissidents.
What happened to the woman who
was nearly stoned to death?
Jesus said to not sin again,
but if she’s like me, she was
back in sweaty sheets later that day,
engaged in sinful acts – it’s a fact that
we’re far from saints + sainthood is
a hatred of humanity
but Jesus was half-God,
so it’s not so odd to believe
He died for me + whether I sin today
or tomorrow doesn’t matter much
because grace is free
(Photo by Laura Allen on Unsplash)
A teacher told my mother I’d join a cult –
that was in the ‘90s + twenty years later,
I was a recovery zealot, driving through
snowstorms to share my sorrows with
strangers, always thinking I was in danger,
fighting my impulses + a mind that
seemed to want me dead.
(Photo by Karl Fredrickson on Unsplash)
Buried deep in this sea, there is ancient treasure –
it’s been hidden for ages, from a sunken ship
that carried gold and human remains,
but all that remains
are brittle bones, skulls + chests filled with fortune –
I’ll dive deep + discover it, even if it kills me,
bring it back to this sandy shore so I can
explore this coastline dotted with land mines
from a distant war – the war that took my father + tore
this island nation to pieces: the woman wailing,
lonely in their huts without their husbands +
the children afraid of the night
when mutant-men prowl swamplands of death
+ devour human and beast alike.
(Photo by Max Okhrimenko on Unsplash)
This birthmark on my back is a mark I carry
from body to body – I die, am reborn
in another time, but my soul remains the same –
forever after the same truth, relentless in pursuit +
snared in masses of mankind + the death-march of progress
toward blood-soaked extinction or utopian dream
(Photo by Majid Rangraz on Unsplash)
Note: This poem was inspired by a theme in the novel, Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell. It’s a terrific book and I highly recommend it!
When I die, I want to go quietly – free from the miseries
of my body breaking down, organs sickened,
cutting off life as drift away.
When I die, I want to wake in a better world,
away from earth’s torments + the adverse emotions
gurus say we must bear.
Where do those neighbors get their money?
They’re up late on weeknights, drinking beer,
playing games in the street – the young woman
has glazed eyes, she’s always stoned;
the boyfriend doesn’t have a care
in the world, in a world
where so many are dying
and a feeling of impending doom
clutches us by the throat.
(Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash)
Down the winding path, you go deep into the forest –
the dense birch trees make it so dark that only
a faint light breaks through and illuminates
the leave-strewn path.
You were told to avoid this place – a place
where corpses dangle from branches and
lay twisted on the forest floor, their faces
stuck in a final moment of eagerness to
kill a lifetime of sorrow.
Most of our country has been in some form of quarantine or social distancing for about three and a half months. I was sent home from work on March 5 because I had a sneeze. Fear was already high in the Philadelphia area. Those first eight days, I had some freedom – I still went to teach at religious school the following Sunday and Wednesday in New Jersey. I had no idea that a few days later, my entire office would be sent home, and our state would put in place a stay-at-home order.